"Retailers use deplorable tactics to peddle booze"

28 March, 2014

Money-grabbing retailers are destroying public health by using deplorable tactics to entice shoppers to buy ever-increasing amounts of alcohol, according to the UK’s chief medical officer.

Dame Sally Davies used her annual report to lay into the off-trade for “irresponsible” retailing, attack suppliers for marketing alcohol during football matches and push for a new investigation into minimum unit pricing.

She said: “I deplore the methods which retailers use to entice consumers to purchase ever-greater quantities of alcohol. For example, supermarkets promote multi-buy offers and sell alcohol below cost price.”

Davies said there are “strong links between alcohol and crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour” but seemed to attack the on-trade more on this front.

She said that in 2010/11 30% of all violent assaults took place around a pub or club, but gave no indication on what the situation is like three years on.

She also slammed the on-trade for redefining “small” glasses of wine, and “omitting from menus the 12.5cl measure which they are legally obliged to offer”.

Davies highlighted further data around the link between alcohol and violence, and said: “Despite these clear health and societal risks, retailers continue to sell alcohol using methods which I consider to be irresponsible.”

She did not elaborate on the “deplorable methods” retailers use, but said: “I welcome the Government’s plan to ban the sale of alcohol below the cost of duty plus VAT from April 2014.

“However, I note that modelled data suggests that charging a minimum of 45p per unit of alcohol should be more effective in reducing premature deaths. An exploration of the impact of the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 201263 would add valuable real-world data to our understanding of the problem, provided its provisions survive ongoing legal challenge and are implemented.

“An expert group is currently reviewing the evidence to inform new guidelines on the maximum quantity of alcohol which it is safe to consume. I intend to publish these guidelines within the coming year.”

She added: “The quantity of alcohol advertising is also concerning: one recent study found that there were 111 visual references to alcohol in every hour of broadcast football matches: almost two per minute.

“This is particularly concerning as televised football matches are popular among children as well as adults, and the evidence shows that children exposed to alcohol marketing tend to drink alcohol at an earlier age and in greater quantities than those who are not exposed.”

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